"It’s important to point out that the task force was ordered by Arbitrator William Kaplan in his award after the strike in 2017, making this markedly different than some of the decisions of the previous Liberal government that have been terminated or put on hold." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (23 July 2018) — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is deeply disappointed to learn the Progressive Conservative government has terminated the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Task Force. The Task Force was ordered by Arbitrator William Kaplan in his award following the 2017 College Faculty strike.
Task force established following divisive negotiations
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, has sent a letter to Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, indicating that OPSEU/NUPGE will consider all legal avenues if the government persists.
The letter urges the Minister to "do everything in your power to persuade the government to reconsider this decision."
You should be aware that the CAAT Task Force was established following extended negotiations between the Crown, the College Employer Council, and OPSEU. The parties brought their respective interests and experience to those discussions, and OPSEU/NUPGE ultimately agreed to withdraw certain proposals from collective bargaining in order to reach agreement on a Letter of Understanding, entitled “Ontario’s Public Colleges: The Next 50 Years.” The Task Force that was established through this letter brought together representation from key stakeholders, including the government, the College Employer Council, academic faculty, support staff, students and employers. The agenda of the Task Force was innovative, forward looking, and in the interests of all Ontarians," writes Thomas.
You should also be aware that the Letter of Understanding states that "The Ministry agrees to accept and endorse this initiative, accepting signatory status as facilitator for the Task Force." The Ministry committed that "all recommendations of the Task Force will be considered for funding by cabinet.”
Arbitrator, not government, ordered task force
The Task Force was given a mandate to develop recommendations on a number of identified issues that are significant to OPSEU, and significant to the future of post-secondary education in Ontario. An interim report was issued on April 30, 2018, with a final report and recommendations expected to be issued to the Ministry in the fall of 2018.
Thomas' letter continued,
OPSEU/NUPGE strongly opposes the decision to terminate the Task Force, and we will consider all legal avenues if the government persists. It’s important to point out that the task force was ordered by Arbitrator William Kaplan in his award after the strike in 2017, making this markedly different than some of the decisions of the previous Liberal government that have been terminated or put on hold.
By cancelling the Task Force, the Government is withdrawing from its commitments to post-secondary education, as well as the specific commitments that were given to OPSEU/NUPGE and the College Employer Council in the course of collective bargaining. This decision to terminate interferes with the process of collective bargaining and overturns significant outcomes that were achieved by the parties. It certainly leaves the door open to a Charter challenge pursuant to s2(d) freedom of association. In addition, the parties, government, and indeed Ontarians will lose the opportunity to hear and consider the recommendations of the Task Force.
The union is awaiting a response from Minister Fullerton.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE